Interview: Patrick Kielty heading to Cambridge with his new show, Borderline
Borderline is the new stand-up show from Patrick Kielty, a Northern Ireland native who lived in Los Angeles for a number of years with wife Cat Deeley and their two children.
The show finds him returning to his satirical roots with a personal take on borders, national identity and the future of the Union in a post-Brexit landscape.
Growing up close to the Irish border and witnessing first-hand the devastating effects of ‘the Troubles’ (his father was killed by loyalist paramilitaries in 1988), the piece – which will mark his first tour of the UK in seven years – delves into his homeland’s recent history to try to make sense of the new borders and political upheaval.
“I am in the little village that I was born in, Dundrum, County Down,” replies Patrick, 51, when we caught up with him. “We still have a house here and I’m looking out on four miles of beach and the Mourne Mountains, and I’ve got six shows done this week out of eight in Belfast.
“So it’s almost like a little mini break. If you’ve got kids, when you’re going on tour and you’ve got a few days to nip off and make a cup of tea whenever you want and have a little dad nap in the afternoon, I’m not going to lie, it’s quite nice!”
How has the tour been going so far? “It’s been going good... We started the end of February and we’ve done about 12 shows.
“I think there’s 60 dates, we’re going right the way through to the start of July with it, and just to get up and running has been lovely because normally you have that tiny wee bit of stress when you put the show together and you’ve got your opening night and you’re trying to do all of these things, but thrown into the top of that we moved back from America a couple of years ago, all our stuff landed finally – with lockdown – out of storage about 10 days before I was due to leave on tour.
“The flat that we were renting in north London got sold and we had to move out of that into somewhere else; we’d just bought a house which was a tear-down, we were completing on that – and then on top of that, the day that we moved into the new house we were renting with two 40-foot containers of stuff from America, a 100-foot tree blew down in the storm and landed on the roof of the house.
“So that was the point where I was able to say to Cat, ‘I’m sorry I’ve got to go, I’ve got these dates!’ So going on tour to get a break from life, really.”
Explaining the title, Borderline, Patrick says: “I think that when I was growing up, and a lot of the comedians I admire, like Billy Connolly, the idea that they were telling you about how they grew up and what their world was like, that was something that always kind of got me going.
“This show is probably the most personal show that I’ve done. It’s about growing up in this little village thinking it was heaven, discovering then as a child that actually this village was in the middle of Northern Ireland, which kind of wasn’t heaven at that time, and navigating my way through that – obviously my dad being killed and me realising that that wasn’t just a one-off, that suddenly there was lots of other people going through the same thing.
“It’s about the idea that Northern Ireland for a really long time got itself into difficulties by thinking that life was either black or white, that I’m right and you’re wrong, coming together, making peace and how that helped this place become completely transformed – and now seeing a world that’s maybe more polarised, and coming back from America where you had the Trump phenomenon and fake news and Democrats and Republicans.
“In Britain you’ve got the Brexiteer/Remainer thing and so the show is essentially about coming from a polarised world and seeing that fixed and now starting to live in a world where maybe you see things more polarised and trying to make some sense of what we’re all living through today, based on what I survived.”
Patrick reveals that he found life in California a little different to one of the most common perceptions. “I think what’s funny about it is that America kind of gets a reputation, especially Los Angeles and California, as being quite fake,” he explains, “and, weirdly, when you live there you realise that it’s not fake at all.
“It’s just a lot of people that all want to go out and try to do their thing and be successful, and if you can help them, or you can be successful while they’re being successful, everybody’s kind of up for that, whereas I think sometimes, coming back to the UK and Ireland, we’re almost a little bit... I think we’re not as straightforward about success. I think if you do something great, you’ll probably not tell people that here.”
Patrick adds: “I think from a comedy point of view, there is an in-built b******t detector that I think that people this side of the pond have, which I really missed, and I think that that British sense of humour, that people think it’s a quirky thing. I think there’s a real sense of satire that is on this side of the pond which I really missed.”
Over the years, Patrick has branched out into acting and radio and TV presenting – and has also made numerous other television appearances on programmes such as Celebrity Chase, Live At the Apollo, Mock the Week and 8 Out of 10 Cats, as well as his acclaimed 2018 documentary, My Dad, the Peace Deal and Me. Despite this very impressive CV, stand-up remains his first love.
“I think it definitely is. I mean it’s one of those things that whenever you’re not gigging, you don’t realise how much a part of you it is. I think stand-up is something that basically completely launched everything.
“All the stuff that I’ve managed to do in my life as a so-called grown-up has been down to stand-up. As you get a little bit older and there’s other opportunities – documentaries and I’ve just shot a movie – it all comes back to stand-up, really, and so I owe stand-up pretty much everything that I’ve had in my life. So yeah, it is the first love and it always will be.”